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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, Paula Hawkins

“Strong storytelling, complex characters, and a psychological depth that makes it exceptionally believable”


Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…


This is one of those rare crime books: it is one that could easily be read again, because it does not simply rely on the whodunit but on strong storytelling, complex characters, and a psychological depth that makes it exceptionally believable. It is a fascinating journey into the mind of Rachel, someone who is broken and flawed, who cannot trust anything that comes from anyone’s mouth – not even her own.

If Rachel sounds awful, she is in good company. The other main narrators, Megan and Anna, aren’t nice either. Megan hides a dark secret, Anna is cold and selfish. In fact, all the characters, the men included, lie, cheat, and manipulate. Yet the author has managed to also make them sympathetic and realistic; at no point do they turn into one-dimensional caricatures.

But of all the liars, Rachel is the biggest, unable to trust her own memories as she battles with alcoholism. Even her daily commute on the train is a lie, as she lost her job months before, and travels in to ensure no one realises. It is from her train seat that she bitterly recalls how her life has changed, because each day she passes her old home, where she used to live with her husband, Tom. Now he lives in the same home, with his new wife.

A few doors down live a couple, Megan and Scott, who Rachel becomes obsessed with. And that obsession is about to shred her already torn life.

As recollections and half-truths slide around Rachel’s mind, as she examines bruises and tries to put together what is happening to her, she is also trying to solve the puzzle of what happened to Megan.

This is a skilfully told book, the three women each telling their take on the tale, each one different enough to make it clear that no one is reliable. Everything is constantly shifting, leaving the reader always wondering: just what is the truth?

This is a brilliant book, and incredibly complex and assured for a debut novel. Paula Hawkins has a bright future ahead of her.

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